Richard Melson

July 2005

Around the World in Eighty Days


Jules Verne and Globalization I (1870-1914)


This novel by Jules Verne is the bible and harbinger of early globalization

based on steamships, railways, cable, the telegraph and the Suez Canal.

The precipitious drops in transport costs in that era were the "Moore's Law" equivalent for the nineteenth century transport revolution.

Similarly, the telegraph was the "Victorian internet." (see Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet, 1999 book)

2005 puts us in Globalization II which could be ended by 9/11 and its shockwaves as Globalization I, 1870-1914, ended with the outbreak of WW I, leading to radical de-globalization, 1914-1950.

Plot of Jules Verne Novel:

The story starts in London on October 2, 1872. Phileas Fogg is a wealthy, solitary, unmarried man with regular habits. The source of his wealth is not known and he lives modestly. He fires his former valet, James Forster, for bringing him his shaving water two degrees too cold. He hires as a replacement Passepartout, a Frenchman of around 30 years of age.

Later that day in the Reform Club, he gets involved in an argument over an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days.

The schedule is given as follows:

London / Suez

rail and steamer

7 days

Suez / Bombay


13 days

Bombay / Calcutta


3 days

Calcutta / Hong Kong


13 days

Hong Kong / Yokohama


6 days

Yokohama / San Francisco


22 days

San Francisco / New York


7 days

New York / London


9 days



80 days

Fogg accepts a wager for 20,000 pounds from his fellow club members, which he will receive if he makes it around the world in 80 days. He sets off immediately, taking his puzzled new valet with him. He leaves London by train at 8.45 p.m. on October 2, and thus is due back at the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, on December 21.

Fogg and Passepartout reach Suez in time. While disembarking in Egypt, he is watched by a Scotland Yard detective named Fix, who has been despatched from London in search of a bank robber. Because Fogg matches the description of the bank robber, Fix mistakes Fogg to be the criminal. Since he cannot secure a warrant in time, Fix goes on board of the steamer conveying the travelers to Bombay. During the voyage, Fix gets acquainted with Passepartout, without revealing his purpose.

Still in time, Fogg and Passepartout switch to the railway in Bombay, setting off for Calcutta, Fix now following them undercover. As it turns out, the construction of the railway is not totally finished, so they are forced to get over the remaining gap between two stations by riding an elephant, which Phileas Fogg purchases at the prodigious price of 2,000 pounds.

During the ride, they come across a suttee procession, in which a young Indian woman, Aouda, is led to a sanctuary to be sacrificed the next day. Since the young woman is obviously drugged and not going voluntarily, the travelers decide to rescue her. They follow the procession to the site, where Passepartout secretly takes the place of the girl's deceased husband on the funeral pyre, on which the woman is going to be burned the next morning. During the ceremony, he then rises from the pyre, scaring off the priests, and carries the young woman away.

The travelers then hasten on to catch the train at the next railway station, taking the girl, Aouda, with them. At Calcutta, they finally board a steamer going to Hong Kong. Fix, who had secretly been following them, again failed to obtain a warrant against Fogg in Calcutta and is forced to follow them along to Hong Kong. On board, he shows himself to Passepartout, who is delighted to meet again his traveling companion from the earlier voyage.

In Hong Kong, it turns out that Aouda's distant relative in whose care they had been planning to leave her there, has moved away, so they decide to take her with them to Europe. Meanwhile, still without a warrant, Fix sees Hong Kong as his last chance to arrest Fogg on British soil. He therefore confides in Passepartout, who does not believe a word and remains convinced that his master is not a bank robber. To prevent Passepartout from informing his master about the premature departure of their next vessel, Fix makes Passepartout drunk and drugs him in an opium den. In his dizziness, Passepartout yet manages to catch the steamer to Yokohama, but neglects to inform Fogg.

Fogg, on the next day, discovers that he has missed his connection. He goes on search for a vessel which will take him to Yokohama. He finds a pilot boat which takes him and his companions (Aouda and Fix) to Shanghai, where they catch a steamer to Yokohama. In Yokohama, they go on a search for Passepartout, believing that he may have arrived there with the original connection. They find him in a circus, trying to earn his homeward journey.

Reunited, the four board on a steamer taking them across the Pacific to San Francisco. Fix promises Passepartout that now, having left British soil, he will no longer try to delay Fogg's journey, but rather support him in getting back to Britain as fast as possible (to have him arrested there).

In San Francisco, they get on the train to New York. During that trip, the train is attacked by Indians, who take Passepartout and two other passengers hostage. Fogg is now faced with the dilemma of continuing his tour, or going to rescue Passepartout. He chooses the latter, starting on a rescue mission with some soldiers of a nearby fort, who succeed in freeing the hostages.

To make up for the lost time, Fogg and his companions hire a sledge, which brings them to Omaha, where they arrive just in time to get on a train to Chicago, Illinois, and then another to New York. However, reaching New York, they learn that the steamer they had been trying to catch has left a short time before.

On the next day, Fogg starts looking for an alternative for the crossing of the Atlantic. He finds a small steam boat, destined for Bordeaux. However, the captain of the boat refuses to take the company to Liverpool, wherupon Fogg accepts to be brought to Bordeaux. On the voyage, he bribes the crew to mutiny and take course for Liverpool. Going on full steam all the time, the boat runs out of fuel after a few days. Fogg buys the boat at a very high price from the captain, soothing him thereby, and has the crew burn all the wooden parts to keep up the steam.

The companions arrive at Liverpool several hours before the deadline, which would easily suffice to get to London by train. However, once on British soil again, Fix produces a warrant and arrests Fogg. A short time later, the misunderstanding is cleared up - the actual bank robber had been caught several days earlier. However, Fogg has missed the train and returns to London 5 minutes late, assured that he has lost the wager.

In his London house the next day, he apologizes to Aouda for bringing her with him, since he now has to live in poverty and cannot financially support her. Aouda suddenly confesses that she loves him and asks him to marry her, which he gladly accepts. He calls for Passepartout to notify the reverend. At the reverend's, Passepartout learns that he is mistaken in the date, which he takes to be Sunday but which actually is Saturday due to the fact that the party traveled in Eastern direction, thereby gaining a full day on a journey around the globe, by crossing the International Date Line.

Passepartout hurries back to Fogg, who immediately sets off for the Reform Club, where he arrives just in time to claim the wager won. Thus ends the journey around the world, which made Phileas Fogg not only a little richer but also the happiest man.

Comparative Comment:

Notice that in the recent Martin Scorsese movie, "The Aviator," about Howard Hughes, the New York-to-New York trip around the world takes four days and under.

Thus the time needed to go around the world has been cut by a factor of twenty, from eighty to four.

Around the world in eighty days: Jules Verne & Globalization I

July 24, 2005